Tuesday, March 8, 2016

This is the End: #8

After 13+ years living in Mount Pleasant and 8+ years writing this website, this is the end

Until I get The X2 site is really up and running, I wanted to look back at some of the most memorable posts from the last eight years of writing The 42. 

#8 is from July 2007. This was about six months before DCUSA was finished and we were all wondering what the hell would happen to Mount Pleasant when this thing opened. I can't overstate how huge of a deal this was at the time. No one really knew how much it would eventually change Columbia Heights. And this is crazy: eight years in, DCUSA has never --I repeat, NEVER-- been fully leased. And they never got that promised whole foods (or McDonald's for that matter).

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Out and About: DC USA in Columbia Heights

Ugh. Yesterday it rained. And rained. And rained. We needed it though. No rain today, but a killer humidity that means August is around the corner. Good thing I took the photos for this post after work late last week. And next year at about this time, I'll be able to ditch the heat and wander around the air conditioned sterility of DCUSA, a project underway a few blocks from here.

DCUSA, just off of the 42 bus line, in Columbia Heights, is a can't miss, monster construction and development project. At the corner of 14th and Irving, its massive aura is only tempered by the other projects that are finished or nearly finished around it (the Tivoli, Park Triangle, Highland Park and Kenyon Square).

If you really want to get a feel for what the 14th St development may become, look no further than Harlem USA (pictured at right), another project competed by one of DCUSA's main developers, Gotham Organization. Harlem USA is very similar to DCUSA in some telling ways: its a major one-time injection of hundreds of thousands of retail square footage into a perceived-as-undeserved market; most of the retail spaces and all of the "anchors" are national chains; the location of the development is away from the traditional downtowns of the cities; both are near public transit and to hear the developers tell it, both will benefit the residents of each neighborhood tremendously.

One difference between the two is obvious. Harlem USA is in New York, on Manhattan. Any relative impact of that amount of retail is diminished and somewhat absorbed by the sheer population level and density of New York's retail options; one can get to shopping fairly easy from anywhere in Manhattan. Harlem USA weighs in at 275,000 square feet. It includes a Disney store, Modell's Sporting goods, HMV (music retailer), Old Navy, two banks, Magic Johnson Movie Theater and a handful of other stores. The Target at DCUSA will be 180,000 square feet of retail alone. DCUSA will weigh in at over 500,000 square feet of retail, most of which is spoken for as of this post. Target, Best Buy, Washington Sports Club, and Bed Bath and Beyond are a few of he majors who've signed up. And unlike Harlem USA, DCUSA will have dedicated parking, 1,000 spaces worth.

Arguably the impact of DCUSA will be greater than even that of Harlem USA. Harlem USA is smaller and while it is serving a part of Manhattan that was previously ignored by major retail and most chains, those residents still had access to at least comparable retail options via mass transit or a short drive. Residents of midtown DC have never seen a retail project of this scale. Most of the retail options available at DCUSA aren't foreign to the area; many can be reached downtown or just outside of the city limits (Marshall's in Silver Spring, Target at Prince George's Plaza).

However what will become of the local restaurants, shops and other retail remains to be seen. There are several established corridors of retail in the surrounding areas that may be affected including 11th and 14th Streets NW in Columbia Heights, Park Rd between 14th and Hiatt Place in Columbia Heights, Mt Pleasant Street NW and Columbia Rd and 18 Street in Adams Morgan. The small, mostly local businesses on these strips are in for a challenge when DCUSA is competed in 2008. Some will suffer because of Target's breadth of products (household items, hardware, bikes, clothing etc) while others may suffer because of increased rents or property assessment. The parking lot at the facility will bring plenty of newcomers to the area, but it seems unlikely that those shoppers will venture away from the mall that will be DCUSA into any other parts of the neighborhood. Any thoughts?